MTV Losing Tempo?

MTV is looking to unload its Caribbean music and culture network, Tempo, according to sources familiar with the matter. The company has been shopping it to local investors who could run the network under a license agreement or buy it outright, the sources say.

The potential sale comes as MTVN restructures its cable group in an effort to improve international profitability, taking ownership stakes in bigger markets and creating licensing deals in smaller ones. MTVN declined comment on the matter.

MTV launched Tempo in November 2005 in markets across the islands through a carriage deal with 100,000-subscriber Innovative Cable TV. MTVN said at the time that Tempo would debut in North America in 2006, although that did not happen.

Cable & Wireless plc, the international telecommunications company, was the charter sponsor, and the network has run a mix of original and acquired programming from MTVN's library and local Caribbean networks, including shows from the hip-hop artist Wyclef Jean.

One way for MTVN to part ways with Tempo is by selling its interest in the venture to a local company. Under this model, MTVN lowers its risk with the channel by selling its assets and passing on advertising sales responsibility to the local buyer, but continuing to license its programming to the network.

In June, for example, the company sold its 53 percent share in MTV Russia for $360 million to Prof-Media, a local company with media interests. Prof-Media acquired 100 percent of the venture with plans to run the network under a license agreement.

Viacom's Philippe Dauman “has been trying to work on the cost side of the equation to lift the margin and focus energies on where they should redeploy their efforts,” says Miller Tabak media analyst David Joyce.